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Media Centre | COSATU Press Statements
Do not honour Shimon Peres
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has written the following letter to Dr Andrew Graham, Master of Balliol, Oxford University:
18th November, 2008
Dear Dr Graham,
Collaboration with apartheid Israel is a crime against humanity. Honouring Shimon Peres is a disservice to the cause of the Palestinian people
As South African workers who suffered under, feel the legacy of, and played a role in overthrowing, apartheid; we strongly oppose the planned visit of Shimon Peres to the University of Oxford. Worst still, the naming of a lecture series in his name is a re al disgrace to the reputation of your prestigious institution.
Shimon Peres was defence minister at the time of apartheid South African prime minister John Vorster's visit to Jerusalem in 1976. At the time Israel was one of the major arms suppliers to South Africa, despite the international embargo and, by 1980, no le ss than 35 percent of Israel`s arms exports were coming here, to South Africa.
Peres twice served as prime minister during the 1980s when Israel drew closest to the apartheid government. Chris McGreal in The Guardian newspaper (Tuesday February 7 2006) says of Peres: "He shies away from questions about the morality of ties to the whi te regime. "I never think back. Since I cannot change the past, why should I deal with it?" he says."
As South Africans whose oppression was fuelled by the Israeli state, and certainly Peres himself, we stand in solidarity with Palestinians who, for more than 60 years have lived under Israeli apartheid. Peres` biography reads like a timetable of massacres against Palestinian civilians.
He played a leading role in the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine as the person responsible for purchasing weapons and supplies for the Haganah forces and its militias. Fifty years later Shimon Perez was responsible, as the Israeli Prime minister at the t ime, for the Qana massacre of 1996, during which Israel intentionally bombed a known UN site, killing and injuring hundreds of Lebanese civilians.
The invitation of Peres and a lecture series named after him would be a celebration of apartheid in South Africa and Palestine. It would be an acceptance of the disregard of the United Nations (who Israel has consistently ignored and defied), an acceptance of the disregard for the International Court of Justice (who ruled that the more than 700km long wall that Israel continues to build is illegal) and an act of complicity against the largest refugee population of the 20th century.
There are certainly heroes in both the South African and Palestinian struggles - some of whom are Israeli citizens themselves. Any number of these men and women who have lent their lives to real peace and justice could have been invited by Oxford Universit y's Balliol College.
However, the invitation of Shimon Peres tarnishes the reputation of Oxford University`s oldest college and that of one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Europe.
We assert that Balliol College should cancel the invitation to Shimon Peres and the proposed lecture series in his honour.
Yours Sincerely, Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary